"Live the Dream" - Tofo, Mozambique

Trip Start Sep 14, 2005
Trip End May 2006

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Flag of Mozambique  ,
Friday, November 11, 2005

The 8-hour bus ride to Maputo (capital of Moz) was made much less painful by the reclining seats, air conditioning, and 4 movies including Home Alone and The Fugitive - not to mention the GORGEOUS scenery (from cloud-engulfed mountains to towering palm tress). We spent one day in Maputo, a Sunday, and since all the stores/restaurants/etc. were closed, we spend the afternoon watching a SA vs. NZ cricket match..... Mike spent most of the time explaining the rules to me, so that I could eventually understand what those funny little sticks and upside-down bats were all about! Our other Maputu adventures included a sleepless night in a dorm with two disturbingly loud snorers, and borrowing money from two sweet Spanish girls for our second 8hr bus ride north to Inhambane, Mozambique - a quite and charming colonial port town, which was on our way to the beach town of Tofo.

Tofo, where we spent most of our week, can only be understood in pictures, and even most of those can't do it justice. The crystal white beach extends for miles in both directions, and is flanked by sloping sand dunes and rugged rock cliffs which add character to the otherwise 'perfect white sand and palm tree' postcard-quality beach. It's stunning. Mike and I walked the beach for hours every day.

But what we loved about Tofo, is that it's more than just a beach. I mean don't get me wrong, that's precisely WHY the tourists/travelers go there, but beyond the beach life is a lazy and beautiful town centered around a tiny but vibrant market. The town is an interesting mix of burnt out surfer hippies (most of them have dyed blond hair and wear their kakis ridiculously low), South African tourists and businessmen/women (running the few cafes, surf shops, and internet café - yes Tofo is 'online'!), fruit and shell jewelry vendors, fishermen (and they are all men, or boys mostly), and backpackers. It's hard to tell how many people actually live in Tofo, as the crowd (both local vendors and travelers) is a transient one, either commuting to Tofo for business or visiting for a few days/months/years... A number of foreigners we met had planned to stay only a week in Tofo and had instead stayed for a number of months - a couple had even found jobs there to extend their vacation in paradise.

Mike and I filled our days with walks (both inland and on the beach), eating all the calamari we could manage, frolicking in the ocean (ok I frolicked, Mike swam), and snorkeling with whale sharks (some 9 metres long!) and dolphins. Don't worry mom and dad, the sharks only eat plankton. It was unbelievable to swim only a few feet from such a magnificent and enormous animal, but equally cool was riding in the (excuse the Coast Guard lingo) Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat through the waves.... (Cath, Sheils, Joe, Rob, Matt, check out the pictures - the boat was JUST like our CG boat, though much cleaner,, with a console at the bow, and only two 85 hp Yamahas - still a fun taste of home!)

Mike and I spent our evenings (which often turned into late nights) partying with other backpackers in the restaurants, and in our own grass hut on the beach, dancing to Scissor Sisters and drinking Gin and Tonics. Some nights we'd wander down the road to one of the two bars in town, Dino's, for some Manica beer and hilarious people watching.

But of our 10 or so days in Tofo I have to say that the highlight was hanging out with the "beach boys" (as I call them), or local 4-14yr old vendors who roam the beach selling shell bracelets, necklaces, and belts, straw hats and baskets, cashew nuts and coconuts.
They are all boys, as the girls are in school in the afternoon (when tourists hit the beach), and they travel in posses of 3 to 10 approaching anyone who might have loose change with phrases like:

-"Buy one bracelet. Yesterday you promised" (even if you've never seem them before in your life)
-"I give you good price. I need money for school." (even if they are far too young for school)
-"Swap bracelet for your watch. Swap for shorts? Swap for shirt?"

At first the boys come across desperate and needy. They whine at you in soft voices that make you pity them and pull out your wallet. But after a few days, Mike and I realized each kid had two sides. We'd see them interacting with each other, and they'd be laughing, joking, play fighting, and generally carefree. And after hanging out with them day after day, we got to know many of them individually. They became personalities (some quite strong ones) rather than pity cases.

In one posse, Mandela leads the pack. He struts around like he owns the beach and quite happily posed for multiple pictures with my sunglasses on. He's also a joker - told me he was 40 yrs old, when he's quick obviously younger than 14, and he nonchalantly said I could be his 'babe' (aka, girldfriend) ... I dunno, what do you think, Mark? =)

One of the few 'loner' venders of the beach is Stephen, an older teen with ambition and heart. His quiet and gentle manner is unique to the 'beach boy' crowd, but he's a sharp business man (got me to buy a hat, two bags, and a fan...) who's both fair and generous. He wants to be a civil engineer when he grows up, but teaching would be his second choice though it doesn't pay as well. Stephen lives in Maxixe ('Masheesh') and comes every afternoon to Tofo (by boat and then bus) toting his armload of baskets for the tourists. His English is excellent and his demeanor charming.

Mike and I spent a few afternoons just lying on the beach surrounded by the 'beach boys'. They were happy to chat, but preferred it if we took their pictures, bought bracelets, or gave them "sweeties". Our last morning on the beach, we taught five of the kids to play ultimate frisbee and played for a couple hours.... They were really good by the end!

On our way back to Jo'burg we spent one night in Maputo (to split up the 16 hour ride). The short 'chapa' (mini van) ride from Tofo to Inhambane was unimaginably packed - with guys hanging out the open door and two bums to a seat. I was lucky enough to have an adorable baby passed in through the window to my lap for the ride.

For our night in Maputo we dined at the local fish market. You quite literally are able to pick out your fresh squid/barracuda/crab/clams etc. from the rows of market stalls. You then take your plastic bag of seafood to one of the 5-6 restaurants behind the stalls, which will fry up your dinner for a buck or two. It was a fabulous way to enjoy our last night of Mozambican seafood!

Today we are in Jo'burg and tomorrow afternoon we fly to Livingston, Zambia to visit Victoria Falls and raft in the Zambezi river. Mike thinks I would like bungee jumping too, but I'll have to think about that one!

After a week at the Falls, we'll bus to Windhoek, Namibia (to see some wildlife and spectacular sand dunes) before making our way south to Cape Town.

Sorry to make this a long entry. Hope you skimmed when you had to! I understand!!! If you're reading only this last paragraph, just know that Mike and I are seeing the best Southern Africa has to offer and loving every minute of it. I can speak only for myself, but Mike's a terrific travel buddy. The combination of his previous knowledge of Southern Africa, my incessant list-making, and our obsessions with sunscreen, saving money, and Scissor Sisters ... make for a very complimentary travel duo. Of course I miss my original travel buddy Mark, but to be honest Mark, I doubt you'd still be dating me if you could smell my clothes from the past week! I promise to cut off my dread locks and put on deodorant before I see you in January =)

p.s. the "Living the Dream" motto is from one of the Tofo backpacker hostels, Bamboozie. Mike and I promptly adopted it as our trip motto!

p.p.s. Mike and I had our hit of the Canadian winter today... we went ice skating in a nearby mall!!! I swear to god. It was awesome. I wish we'd had our Leafs jerseys on as we skated circles around the little kiddies. Hope the REAL Canadian winter hasn't started too early.

Stay well. Love Pam xoxo
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viv on

Hey Pam!
Pam, I sounds like you are having a blast!!

I'm so glad you got to meet up with Paul!! This trip is definitely better than going to Teacher's College! hehe

Anyway, glad to hear you two are having fun. Love reading all your entries. Makes me jealous for sure as I'm stuck here in Kingston in TEacher's college...*sigh* hehe

Take care!

bgleixner on

Pam these pictures are beautiful - you are an artist! I am so happy to hear you are well and having such a magnificent time. I hope Mark is doing as well in Congo!

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